Jason Aldean Reliant Stadium March 11, 2013
Somewhere along the way Jason Aldean rubbed me the wrong way, and whenever I did have a stray thought about him, the words "massive tool" weren't far behind. I spent most of his RodeoHouston concert Monday night at (a packed) Reliant Stadium trying to figure out why, and I think I've got it.
In the last five years, Aldean has become one of mainstream country's biggest male stars, if not the biggest, certainly because of his eye-candy appeal but also because he has adopted more elements of hip-hop culture more successfully than any of his peers. Well, there's Kid Rock, but he doesn't really count.
But not only does Aldean use hip-hop terminology like "bling bling" in his lyrics and exude a general posture of "swag," he actually raps. Spits, whatever. He's not half bad, really, as MCs go. I don't have a problem with Aldean rapping (square-dance calling is not that far off), I just wish he had more interesting things to say than "if it's broke around here, we fix it."
Here is the problem. Aldean just doesn't have a whole lot of interesting things to say, period, or interesting musical ideas, either. When he tries to make a statement about the heartland, red states, small-town values, whatever, "Flyover States" doesn't resonate nearly as much as a similar ballad like Dierks Bentley's "Home." "She's Country" lacks half the lascivious wit of Brantley Gilbert's "G.I.R.L.S."
Some of his other bigger hits -- "Dirt Road Anthem," "Only Way I Know," "My Kinda Party" -- are about little more than how awesome Aldean's latter-day redneck lifestyle is, delivered in concentrated doses of Southern Rock 2.0. Smug may be acceptable in rap, but in country, humility still matters. (I like to think it does, anyway.)
You can't even call him Freudian, because "Big Green Tractor" seems to be about...a big green tractor. But occasionally Aldean will dip his toe into more serious waters, such as the drought-stricken "Amarillo Sky," or even the long-gone lonesome blues, as Monday on the steel-soaked "The Truth." That one song was enough to explain the extremely high female turnout, so Aldean is hardly irredeemable.
The definite high point of the show, which was oddly marred by muddy sound early on, was his new single, by which point the glitches had been corrected. In "1994," Aldean somewhat inexplicably pays tribute to one of his forebears, Joe Diffie of "If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)" and "Third Rock from the Sun" semi-fame. As '90s country stars go, Diffie was decidedly B-list, but he was funnier than most A-listers. Aldean needs some funny so he doesn't come across as so damn dull.
In the end, I decided that it just takes too much effort to throw shade on someone like Aldean, who is after all only trying to be a good ol' boy the best way he knows how. He's done well for himself, but I just can't. I think the problem is that Texas has had several artists who have been doing the exact same thing as Aldean for quite some time, only much better -- much funnier, much more rockin', way more redneck.
So while Aldean may have a better "flow" and sell more records, I'd still rather listen to Kevin Fowler, thank you very much.
Personal Bias: Yeah. I just don't know anymore.
The Crowd: More G.R.I.T.S. than Brantley Gilbert's crowd. Better-looking, too.
Overheard in the Crowd: "She'll be 21 in November." And we can all thank God for that.
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Mutton Bustin' Report: The first kid of the night wants to be a Gravedigger driver when he grows up, but didn't even break an 80 on his ride. Good to keep those career options open, young man.